What happened

After the company unveiled an exciting progress report at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, shares of NantKwest (NASDAQ:NK), a clinical-stage biotech that uses natural killer (NK) cells to fight cancer, surged 70% as of 11:19 a.m. EST on Thursday.

So what

NantKwest issued a press release that shared preliminary findings of its phase 1 and 2 trials for multiple tumors that were presented at the healthcare conference earlier this week.

Here is a summary of the key clinical updates:

  • Complete responses were observed in numerous tumor types that include pancreatic cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, and more. 
  • NantKwest anticipates submitting registration filings with the Food and Drug Administration for bladder, lung, Merkel cell, and pancreatic cancer over the next five years.
  • The company received breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA for its N-803, IL -15 fusion protein as a hopeful treatment for bladder carcinoma in situ.
Rocket blasting off

Image source: Getty Images.

This data supports the hypothesis that using the tumor itself as a source of antigens and orchestrating NK cells and T-cells will induce immunogenic cell death.

CEO Patrick Soon-Shiong said that the number of patients who experienced a complete remission is encouraging, adding that the data "further validates our premise that high-dose chemo is harmful and that a paradigm change of exposing the tumor to a carefully orchestrated 'triple triangle offense' of NK cell, Dendritic cell, and T-cell activation is a safe cellular and immunotherapy regimen and can be administered in the outpatient setting with promising activity across multiple tumor types."

Traders are bidding up the share price in response to the news.

Now what

Soon-Shiong is an extremely successful executive, so this data release should give investors some confidence that he has caught lightning in a bottle again. But history is littered with extremely promising biotechnology drugs that went on to fail in late-stage trials. For that reason, I think caution is still warranted.